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Up is a American computer-animated comedy-adventure film produced by Pixar Animation Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Pictures. The film premiered on May 29, 2009 in North America and is the first animated film to open the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. The film was released in the United Kingdom on October 9, 2009.

Up is director Pete Docter's second feature-length film after Monsters, Inc., and features the voices of Edward Asner, Christopher Plummer, Bob Peterson, and Jordan Nagai. It is Pixar's tenth feature film and the studio's first to be presented in Disney Digital 3-D, and is accompanied in theaters by the short film Partly Cloudy. The film was also shown in Dolby 3D in selected theaters.

The film centers around a grumpy old man named Carl Fredricksen and an overeager Wilderness Explorer named Russell who fly to South America in a floating house suspended from helium balloons. The film has received overwhelmingly positive reviews with a rating of 98% on Rotten Tomatoes. A video game of the same name, based on the film, was released on May 26, 2009.

Plot

Carl Fredricksen, a shy and quiet young boy, meets an energetic and outgoing tomboy named Ellie, discovering they share the same interest in exploration as their hero, the famed explorer Charles F. Muntz. Ellie expresses her desire to move her clubhouse to Paradise Falls in South America, a promise she makes Carl keep. Carl and Ellie wed and grow old together in the old house where they first met while making a living as a toy balloon vendor and a zookeeper respectively. Unable to have children, they also try to save up for the trip to Paradise Falls, but other financial obligations arise. Just as they seem to finally be able to take their trip, Ellie passes away, leaving Carl a lonely and bitter old man with nothing to live for and missing his wife terribly. As the years pass, the city grows around Carl's house with construction as Carl refuses to move. After a tussle with a construction worker over Carl's broken mailbox, the court orders Carl to move into a retirement home. Carl comes up with a scheme to keep his promise to Ellie, and uses his old professional supplies to create a makeshift airship using tens of thousands of helium balloons that lift his house off its foundations. Russell, a Wilderness Explorer trying to earn his final merit badge for "Assisting the Elderly", has stowed away on the porch after being sent on a snipe hunt by Carl the day before.

After a storm throws them around for a while, they find themselves landing on a great plateau across a large ravine facing Paradise Falls. With their body weight providing ballast allowing Carl and Russell to pull the floating house, the two begin to walk around the ravine, hoping to reach the falls while there's still enough helium in the balloons to keep the house afloat. As they walk towards Paradise Falls, Russell finds a colorful tropical flightless bird, which he names Kevin, not realizing that the bird is actually female. They later run into a dog named Dug wearing a translating collar that lets him speak. They discover Dug's owner is an elderly Charles Muntz, who returned to South America in his immense dirigible several decades earlier in a quest to find and bring back a large species of bird to restore his reputation, tarnished by accusations of fraud. Muntz invites Carl and Russell into his dirigible and Carl is initially thrilled to meet his hero. However, when Carl realizes that Muntz is after Kevin and will kill without a moment's thought in order to capture her alive, he takes steps to save the bird and escape with Russell. Thanks to Kevin and Dug they flee the dirigible and escape Muntz's pack of vicious dogs, led by Alpha, but Kevin is injured during the escape.

As Carl and Russell assist the injured Kevin to her chicks, Muntz and his dogs arrive in his airship, led by a tracking device in Dug's collar, and sets a fire under Carl's house, forcing Carl to choose his house over Kevin. Muntz and his dogs quickly capture the bird and fly off. Though Carl successfully gets the house on the ground overlooking Paradise Falls per Ellie's wish, he has lost Russell's favor. Carl, settling down in his house, finds Ellie's childhood scrapbook and discovers her mementos of her life with Carl after they were married, and a final note from her thanking Carl for her adventure of marriage with him and an encouragement for him to go on his own. Invigorated by Ellie's last wish, he goes outside to find Russell, only to find him suspended from balloons to give chase to Muntz. Carl lightens the weight of his house by dumping furniture and his possessions, allowing him to chase after Muntz in his house with Dug by his side.

Russell enters the airship through a window, but is captured by the dogs. He is tied up and left to fall to the earth, but Carl saves him and keeps him tied up in the house for his own safety. Carl and Dug board the ship, and are able to lure the guard dogs away from Kevin to free her. Carl and Muntz duel face to face and fight (Muntz with a sword, Carl with his cane), while Dug is able to wrest control of the dogs and the dirigible from Alpha. Russell frees himself but clings to a lifeline as he finds the house in a dogfight with dog-piloted biplane fighters. When Carl shouts for help, Russell distracts the dog pilots and regains control of the house to rescue his friends, who are now on top of the airship. In pursuit, Muntz shoots out some of the balloons, causing the house to land and slide off the airship. Carl manages to trick Muntz inside the house while saving Russell, Dug, and Kevin. Defeated and tangled in some old balloons, Muntz accidentally lets go of the rope and falls towards the water below, while Carl's house drifts off into the clouds — a loss Carl gracefully accepts as being for the best.

Carl takes Muntz's dirigible and returns Kevin to her chicks, then flies Russell and Dug back to the city. When Russell's father misses his son's Senior Explorer ceremony, Carl fulfills that role himself to proudly present Russell with his final badge, the grape soda badge that Ellie presented to Carl when they first met. Afterward, Carl, reinvigorated in both spirit and body from his adventure, becomes a cheerfully active community volunteer with a strong father-like relationship with Russell, Dug, and the other Wilderness Explorers. Whilst Carl now resides in Muntz's airship, his old house, through happenstance, has landed again exactly where Ellie envisioned it — overlooking Paradise Falls.

Cast and characters

Main characters

  • Edward Asner as Carl Fredricksen. Carl was first introduced in the film as a young boy aspiring to be an explorer just like his hero Charles Muntz. After watching a news reel about Charles, he happened by an old abandoned house, which the young Ellie was playing and using as a club house, after which she gave him a badge. After a minor accident, the energetic Ellie visited him at his house and shared her ideas of one day visiting Paradise Falls, making Carl promise to take them there one day. Soon afterwards, the adult Ellie and Carl marry. Carl's side of the family is shown to be very reserved and quiet as compared to Ellie's overly energetic side of the family. Little is known about Ellie and Carl's actual occupation, but it is shown that they worked at the Zoo, where Carl manned a balloon stand while Ellie tended South American birds. During their marriage, Carl kept an positive character in his marriage, only souring after Ellie's death and when facing the threat of his home being taken away to make way for the industrialization of the neighborhood. In the movie, Carl wears a hearing aid and carries a cane with tennis balls buffering the feet. Docter and Rivera noted Asner's television alter-ego Lou Grant had been helpful in writing for Carl, because it guided them in balancing likeable and unlikeable aspects of the curmudgeonly character. When they met Asner and presented him with a model of his character, he joked "I don't look anything like that." They would tailor his dialogue for him, with short sentences and more consonants, which "cemented the notion that Carl, post-Ellie, is a disgruntled bear that's been poked awake during hibernation".
  • Jordan Nagai as Russell, a Wilderness Explorer stowaway on Carl's flying house. He accompanies Carl in order to earn his "assisting the elderly" badge: the only one he doesn't have. Though he has never really been to the wilderness, he is depressed that his father is always too busy to spend time with him; on their journey, Russell makes a comment to Carl that suggests that Russell's father and mother are no longer together. Russell's design was based on Pixar animator Peter Sohn. Docter auditioned 400 boys in a nationwide casting call for the part. Nagai, who is Japanese American showed up to an audition with his brother, who was actually the one auditioning. Docter realized Nagai behaved and spoke non-stop like Russell and chose him for the part. Nagai was seven years old when cast. Docter encouraged Nagai to act physically as well as vocally when recording the role, lifting him upside down and tickling him for the scene where Russell encounters Kevin. Asian Americans have positively noted Pixar's first casting of an Asian lead character, in contrast to the common practice of casting non-Asians in Asian parts.
  • Bob Peterson as Dug, a talking golden retriever with a collar that translates his thoughts into comical-sounding languages (when Russell plays with the collar), and is the odd duck out of a pack of dogs with similar collars owned by Muntz. All dogs of the pack have a strange obsession with squirrels. Peterson knew he would voice Dug when he wrote his line "I have just met you, and I love you," which was based on what a child told him when he was a camp counselor in the 1980s. In the closing credits of the film Dug is shown to have had puppies with an unnamed female dog that strongly resembles him. The DVD release of the film features a short called Dug's Special Mission which shows the special mission Alpha gave to Dug during his stay in Paradise Falls. Dug previously appeared in Ratatouille as a shadow on a wall that barks at Remy.
  • Peterson also voices Alpha, a talking Doberman Pinscher and the leader of Muntz's pack of dogs. Pete Docter has stated that Alpha "thinks of himself as Clint Eastwood", but despite his menacing appearance, a malfunction in his collar occasionally causes his voice to sound comically high-pitched and squeaky, as if he had been breathing helium. The normal voice for his translator chip is a resonant, intimidating bass; Russell notes that he likes the faulty voice better. With both voices, Alpha has a roundabout speech pattern that causes his sentences to be longer than necessary. It should be noted that Alpha is the character's rank in the pack, rather than his name. At the end of the film, Alpha is shown to have returned with Carl to the US and is seen both at Russels graduation ceremony with cone still attached and at the end credits along with Carl and the other dogs in a senior center.
  • Kevin, a large, flightless tropical bird. Russell impulsively gives the bird a male name, only later learning that Kevin is female. Near the end of the film, it is shown that Kevin has three baby tropical birds. The bird's iridescent appearance is based upon the male Himalayan Monal Pheasant.
  • Christopher Plummer as Charles F. Muntz, the antagonist. He was an adventurer Carl and Ellie admired when they were children. He departed for South America after scientists claimed he had faked his discovery of the skeleton of a 13-foot tall bird (Kevin's species), vowing to find a living specimen. Unfortunately, the countless years he spent there has made him greedy and paranoid, believing anyone who came to Paradise Falls was after the bird to steal his glory. He is an avid dog lover and inventor, being able to train them to do practically anything, and has invented devices that translate their thoughts into speech. He mans the airship 'Spirit of Adventure', which also serves as his home during his long stay in South America. The airship has been customized to his liking, equpped with dog walkers, a mini-museum of creatures he has acquired in his adventures, and small docks for biplanes. The name of the ship may have been inspired from Charles Lindbergh plane Spirit of St. Louis. Pete Docter compared Muntz to Charles Lindbergh and Howard Hughes.


Supporting characters

  • Delroy Lindo as Beta, a Rottweiler, and a member of Muntz's pack of talking dogs.
  • Jerome Ranft as Gamma, a Bulldog, and a member of Muntz's pack of talking dogs. Jerome is brother to the late Joe Ranft and also part of Pixar Animation.
    • Most of Muntz's dogs speak in a somewhat deadpan, over-articulated voice; for no given reason, Beta and Gamma's voices are perfectly normal.
  • Elizabeth "Elie" Docter as Young Ellie, Carl's wife as a child since there were no speaking scenes of Carl and Ellie during their adult years. Ellie is always seen to be in a very energetic state, with the only time she is shown depressed is when she is informed that she is unable to have children. Elizabeth is the director's daughter. Elizabeth also provided some of the children's crayon-based drawings shown by Ellie.
  • Jeremy Leary as Young Carl, Ellie's husband as a child. Carl seems to be very shy as a child.
  • John Ratzenberger as Tom, a construction worker who asks if Carl is ready to sell his home.
  • David Kaye as the newsreel announcer
  • Mickie McGowan as Police Officer Edith
  • Danny Mann as Construction Worker Steve
  • Donald Fullilove as Nurse George
  • Jess Harnell as Nurse AJ
  • Josh Cooley as Omega
  • Pete Docter as Campmaster Strauch, Russell's campmaster seen at the end of the film, voiced by the film's director.


Production

The fantasy of a flying house was born out from director Pete Docter's thoughts about escaping from life when it becomes too irritating, which he explained stemmed from his difficulty with social situations growing up. Writing began in 2004. Actor and writer Thomas McCarthy aided Docter and Bob Peterson in shaping the story for about three months. Docter selected an old man for the main character after drawing a picture of a grumpy old man with smiling balloons. The two men thought an old man was a good idea for a protagonist because they felt their experiences and the way it affects their view of the world was a rich source of humor. Docter was not concerned with an elderly protagonist, stating children would relate to Carl in the way they relate to their grandparents.

Docter noted the film reflects his friendships with Disney veterans Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston and Joe Grant (who all died before the film's release and thus the film was dedicated to them). Grant gave the script his approval as well as some advice before his death in 2005. Docter recalled Grant would remind him the audience needed an "emotional bedrock" because of how wacky the adventure would become; in this case it is Carl mourning for his wife. Docter felt Grant's personality influenced Carl's deceased wife Ellie more than the grouchy main character, and Carl was primarily based on Spencer Tracy and Walter Matthau, because there was "something sweet about these grumpy old guys". Docter and Jonas Rivera noted Carl's charming nature in spite of his grumpiness derives from the elderly "hav[ing] this charm and almost this 'old man license' to say things that other people couldn’t get away with [...] It's like how we would go to eat with Joe Grant and he would call the waitresses 'honey'. I wish I could call a waitress 'honey'."

The filmmakers' first story outline had Carl "just wanted to join his wife up in the sky," Docter said. "It was almost a kind of strange suicide mission or something. And obviously that's [a problem]. Once he gets airborne, then what? So we had to have some goal for him to achieve that he had not yet gotten." Docter created Dug as he felt it would be refreshing to show what a dog thinks, rather than what people assume it thinks. The idea derived from thinking about what would happen if someone broke a record player and it always played at a low pitch. Russell was added to the story at a later date than Dug and Kevin; his presence, as well as the construction workers, helped to make the story feel less episodic.

Carl's relationship with Russell reflects how "he's not really ready for the whirlwind that a kid is, as few of us are". Docter added he saw Up as a "coming of age" tale and an "unfinished love story", with Carl still dealing with the loss of his wife. He cited inspiration from Casablanca and A Christmas Carol, which are both "resurrection" stories about men who lose something, and regain purpose during their journey. Docter and Rivera cited inspiration from the Muppets, Hayao Miyazaki, Dumbo and Peter Pan. They also saw parallels to The Wizard of Oz and tried to make Up not feel too similar. There is a scene where Carl and Russell haul the floating house through the jungle. A Pixar employee compared the scene to Fitzcarraldo, and Docter watched that film and The Mission for further inspiration.

An inspiration for the character Charles Muntz was cartoon producer Charles B. Mintz who stole Walt Disney's hit character Oswald the Lucky Rabbit from him forcing Disney to create replacement character Mickey Mouse. Mintz, like Muntz, did get his comeuppance in real life.

Docter made Venezuelamarker the film's setting after Ralph Eggleston gave him a video of the tepui mountains. In 2004, Docter and eleven other Pixar artists spent three days reaching Monte Roraimamarker by airplane, jeep and helicopter. They spent three nights there painting and sketching, and encountering dangerous ants, mosquitos, scorpions, frogs and snakes. They also flew to Matawi Tepui and climbed to Angel Fallsmarker, as well as Brazilmarker. Docter felt "we couldn't use [the rocks and plants we saw]. Reality is so far out, if we put it in the movie you wouldn't believe it." The film's creatures were also challenging to design because they had to fit in the surreal environment of the tepuis, but also be realistic because those mountains exist in real life. The filmmakers visited Sacramento Zoomarker to observe a Himalayan Monal Pheasant for Kevin's animation. The animators designed Russell as an Asian-American, and modeled Russell after similar looking Peter Sohn, a Pixar storyboarder who voiced Emile in Ratatouille and directed the short Partly Cloudy, because of his energetic nature.

Docter wanted to push a stylized feel, particularly the way Carl's body is proportioned: he has a squarish appearance to symbolize his containment within his house, while his wife's body is shaped like a balloon. The challenge on Up was making these stylized characters feel natural, although Docter remarked the effect came across better than animating the realistic humans from Toy Story, who suffered from the "uncanny valley". Cartoonists Al Hirschfeld, Hank Ketcham and George Booth influenced the human designs. Simulating realistic cloth on caricatured humans was harder than creating the 10,000 balloons flying the house. New programs were made to simulate the cloth and for Kevin's iridescent feathers. To animate old people, Pixar animators would study their own parents or grandparents and also watched footage of the Senior Olympics.

A technical director worked out that in order to make Carl's house fly, he would require 23 million balloons, but Docter realized that number made the balloons look like small dots. Instead, the balloons created were made to be twice Carl's size. There are 10,927 balloons for shots of the house just flying, 20,622 balloons for the lift-off sequence, and it varies in other scenes.

Music

Up is the third Pixar film to be scored by Michael Giacchino, after The Incredibles and Ratatouille. Giacchino wrote a character theme-based score that the filmmakers felt enhanced the story of the film. "Muntz's Theme" is the first piece of music heard in the film when it starts out as a celebratory theme during the newsreel at the beginning and echoes when Carl and Russell meet Muntz 70 years later. "Ellie's Theme" is first heard when she and Carl first meet as children and plays several times throughout the film whenever Carl thinks about her. At the end of the film, during the climactic battle between Carl and Muntz, the orchestra plays "Ellie's Theme vs. Muntz's Theme."

The score was released as a digital download on May 26, 2009, three days before the movie opened in theaters.

Release



When the film screened at the El Capitan Theatremarker in Hollywood, Californiamarker from May 29 to July 23, 2009, it was accompanied by Lighten Up!, a live show featuring Disney characters.

Among the children's books published in conjunction with the film is My Name is Dug, illustrated by screenwriter Ronnie del Carmen. Despite Pixar's track record, Target Corporation and Wal-Martmarker will stock few Up items, while Pixar's regular collaborator Thinkway Toys will not produce merchandise, claiming its story is unusual and will be hard to promote. Disney acknowledged not every Pixar film would have to become a franchise. Promotional partners include Aflac, NASCAR and Airship Ventures, while Cluster Balloons will promote the film with a replica of Carl's couch that will be lifted by hot air balloons, that journalists can sit in.

In Colombia, unexpected publicity for the film was generated due to the uncanny similarity of Carl Fredricksen with Colombian ex-president Julio César Turbay Ayala.

Director Pete Docter intended for audiences to take a specific point from the film, saying:

Blu-ray Disc and DVD release

Up was released on Blu-ray Disc and DVD in North America on November 10, 2009 and will be released in the United Kingdom on February 12, 2010. It features the film plus the theatrical short Partly Cloudy and the new short Dug's Special Mission, as well as an audio commentary by director Pete Docter, the documentary Adventure is Out There on the filmmakers' research journey to South America, The Many Endings of Muntz (an alternate ending of sorts), and a digital copy.

The Blu-ray edition gets double the disc count with a 4-Disc Combo Pack that adds Cine-Explore with BonusView, Global Guardian Badge and Geography games, 8 documentaries, and BD-Live to the Deluxe DVD and digital copy platters. A Limited Edition is also available called the Luxo Jr. Premium Pack which includes a collectible lamp modeled after Pixar's bouncy short star that is designed to hold a complete Pixar Blu-ray collection.

In addition, Pixar also created a short film titled George & A.J., written and directed by Up storyboard artist Josh Cooley, which shows what the two Shady Oaks retirement home workers did after Carl left with his house. It was initially available for purchase at the iTunes Store, and then was later posted to Disney/Pixar's Facebook and YouTube pages.

Reception

Since its release, Up has received greatly positive reviews from critics. As of October 17, 2009, Rotten Tomatoes reports that 98% of critics have given the film a positive review, based on 240 reviews, with an 8.6/10 review average. The film also holds a score of 88 on the review aggregator website Metacritic as of August 1, 2009. Film critic Roger Ebert has awarded the film four out of four stars.

The Hollywood Reporter lauded the film:"Winsome, touching and arguably the funniest Pixar effort ever, this gorgeously rendered, high-flying adventure is a tidy 90-minute distillation of all the signature touches that came before it."

Although the San Francisco Chronicle noted that the film "contains many boring stretches of mindless freneticism and bland character interaction," it also declared that there are scenes in 'Up' of "Such beauty, economy and poetic wisdom that they belong in any anthology of great movie moments...to watch 'Up' with any attention is to be moved and astonished by the economy with which specific visuals are invested with emotion throughout [the film]..."

Variety enthused that "'Up' is an exceptionally refined picture; unlike so many animated films, it's not all about sensory bombardment and volume...Unsurprisingly, no one puts a foot wrong here. Vocal performances...exude a warm enthusiasm, and tech specifications could not be better. Michel Giacchino's full-bodied, traditional score is superlative..."

Dug, the talking canine, was awarded the Palm Dog Award by the British film critics as the best canine performance at Cannes Film Festival. Dug beat out the fox from Antichrist and the black poodle from Inglourious Basterds.

In addition to the positive critical reviews the film received, Up highlights Pixar's corporate image as an altruistic company through its charitable acts. In June 2009, a 10-year-old girl from Huntington Beach, Californiamarker was suffering from the final stages of terminal vascular cancer. It is reported her dying wish was to "live to see the movie" despite the advanced stage of her disease. However, due to her deteriorating condition, the girl was unable to leave the family home. As a result, a family friend contacted Pixar and arranged for a private screening. A Pixar employee flew to the Huntington Beach home with various Up tie-in toys and a DVD copy of the film. The child could not open her eyes, so her mother described the film to her scene by scene. The young girl died approximately seven hours after the screening ended.

Box office

Up ranked number one at the box office its opening weekend, grossing $68,108,790 in North America. This was a stronger return than analysts had been expecting. The film had a small drop-off of 35% over its second weekend, earning another $44,244,000. Initial estimates projected the film holding on to the #1 spot in its second weekend, but revised figures placed it in second, less than $1M behind the Warner Bros. comedy The Hangover, but over $25M ahead of the Will Ferrell remake of Land of the Lost. In its third weekend, the movie experienced an even smaller decline of just 30%, again trailing The Hangover by just a few million to place second. Making $30,762,280 that weekend, it is the tenth biggest third weekend ever for a movie. It currently has earned a total of $292,979,556 domestically as of November 8, 2009, making it Pixar's second highest grossing film domestically, following Finding Nemo. It is currently the fifth highest grossing animated feature of all time in the U.S. Overseas, the film has earned $380 million for a total of $673 million worldwide.

References

  1. Los Angeles Times May 28, 2009
  2. Asia Pacific Arts: May 22, 2009: News Bites "Japanese American Jordan Nagai"
  3. USA Today "a cranky codger and an overeager Asian kid"
  4. Channel APA Jordan Nagai as Russell
  5. http://www.sacbee.com/breaking/story/1885328.html
  6. http://www.cartoonbrew.com/disney/observations-on-up.html
  7. New York Magazine May 24, 2009 "a roly-poly Asian-American wilderness explorer"
  8. http://ultimatedisney.com/coverart.html#nov10
  9. http://disneydvd.disney.go.com/up.html
  10. http://www.slashfilm.com/2009/08/24/cool-stuff-pixars-up-luxo-jr-limited-edition-collectors-set/
  11. http://media.digisynd.com/AQAAABQk2pa1DCA09vpZl_INSdMn1xNn_____2mrHe_VF4bI8pAYyms1GQRCRXqz/play;frame=AQAAALh2WjOD1YtlN3gHi-jCWZQn1xNn_____851R6ViY-sHtGfEUMIlOL-vkVO_/
  12. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hF5KWMX3u4Y
  13. http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/up/
  14. http://www.metacritic.com/film/titles/up
  15. http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090527/REVIEWS/905279997
  16. http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/hr/film-reviews/film-review-up-1003972156.story
  17. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/05/28/MV6617S4LC.DTL&type=movies
  18. http://www.variety.com/index.asp?layout=festivals&jump=review&reviewid=VE1117940233&cs=1
  19. Pixar pooch picks Up Cannes prize, BBC News 22 May 2009, retrieved on 27 May 2009
  20. Dying Girl Gets Final Wish To See "Up", CBS News 19 June 2009, retrieved on 19 June 2009
  21. O'Brien, Bob. Yup, ‘Up’: Pixar’s Latest Release Lifts Disney. Barrons. June 1, 2009. Accessed on: June 9, 2009.
  22. http://boxofficemojo.com/genres/chart/?id=animation.htm
  23. [http://www.boxofficeguru.com/intl.htm.


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